Friday, October 31, 2008

Poetry Friday- Ardath Mayhar: "Samhain, Full Moon"


Samhain, Full Moon
by Ardath Mayhar

She sat, hands busy with a homely task,
and watched a cold white moon trail wisps of cloud
across the east. The last light died away,
leaving the meadows shadowed, ghostly trees
lurking about her house, and crawling mist
in chilly layers between hill and hill.
She shuddered -- it's not good to be alone
by night at any time, but at Samhain --
oh, infinitely worse!

(Read the rest here.)

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Reader's Diary #409- Dark Masques: Editted by J. N. Williamson

With only one day left, I've finished the R.I.P. III Challenge just under the wire. And to think, I only took on the third peril (ie., one book). Still, I had to cram a LOT of reading into the past few nights to fit this one in.

With 508 pages, 40 or more short stories and a few poems, Dark Masques is a hard book to review. Published by Pinnacle Fiction in 2001, it is really a reprint of Masques I (1984) and Masques II (1987) but surprisingly doesn't feel all that dated. In fact, a few stories comment on trouble in the Middle East and well, that ain't exactly changed any.

For the most part I enjoyed the book, but as with any anthology there are bound to be those that I liked and those that I didn't like. When the good outweighs the bad, that must be the mark of a decent collection.

Dark Masques is a wild assortment. Featuring supernatural and realistic evils of all kinds, genuine thrillers and comedy horrors, serious themes and fluff, I think just about any horror fan would find at least one or two stories to win them over. I particularly enjoyed Mort Castle's "Party Time" (which I featured here Monday), that was told from the perspective of a child who'd be kept in the basement; Joe R. Lansdale's "Down By The Sea Near The Great Big Rock," about a camping trip that inspires a lot of hateful thoughts; James Kisner's "The Litter," about a litter of mutant kittens, and also by Joe R. Landsdale's "Dog, Cat and Baby," about a dog dealing with some nasty jealousy issues.

I think discovering new authors was the thing I enjoyed most. I'll definitely be looking for more Landsdale. Fortunately, because it was two collections, some of the authors contributed twice and it was easier to get a feel for whether or not I was a fan. (The most recognizable author in the book is Stephen King, but his "Popsy" is pretty unremarkable.)

What I enjoyed the least were occasional Saturday Night Live type endings in which the author didn't seem to have any idea how to wrap it up. And the 2nd most annoying thing was when authors had the opposite problem: a clever ending and no clever way to get there. As well, I got tired of the cheesy dialogue. At first I appreciated the campiness, but towards the end those sort of stories lost their charm.

But, for a great Halloween warm-up, I'd recommend Dark Masques. Now gimme some candy.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

The Great Wednesday Compare 3- Zombie Edition- Neil Gaiman VERSUS John Irving

While Stan Lee and Beverly Cleary duke it out for a 2nd week, this week marks the return of the Great Wednesday Compare Zombie Edition. Sorry if I led some of you to believe this would be a scary turn of events. In the Zombie Edition two past contenders that didn't get the chance to compete against one another before, are resurrected to do battle once again. Last year Kookiejar (who appears to have returned from the blogging grave herself), brought back Kurt Vonnegut to compete against Isaac Asimov. I realize that the authors I've picked this week are, unlike Kookiejar's picks, not actually dead. Keep in mind, you don't have to be dead to be return from the proverbial grave. Douglas Coupland buried Neil Gaiman back in March, while J. D. Salinger put the nails in John Irving's coffin in September of last year. Now they're back and they're looking for brains. Precious brains...

I'll return next week with the results of this competition, as well as the regularly scheduled program.

Who's better?

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Remember Newspapers?

(Yellowknifer, Wednesday, Oct 22, 2008)

Thanks to Daron Letts of the local paper, the Yellowknifer, for featuring "The Book Mine Set" last week. He also printed a copy of a review I submitted of Zachariah Wells's Jailbreaks (the typo in the tagline is not mine, I swear!) In the same paper he also did a feature on BookCrossers living here in Yellowknife. Did I mention how awesome Daron is?

Monday, October 27, 2008

Reader's Diary #408- Mort Castle: Party Time

Short Story Monday
I'm struggling through Dark Masques, a collection of short horror stories, trying to get it finished in time for to meet Carl's deadline for the 3rd R.I.P. Challenge, which ends on Halloween night. It's not that I'm not enjoying the book, it's that I started late and it's 500 pages. I'm picking some of the stories to highlight on Short Story Monday in an effort to save some time (last week's featured story, McCammon's Nightcrawlers was also from this collection).

Fortunately, I've been able to find one of my favourites online so I can share it here. It's in audio form though, so I suggest skipping through the intro to about the 2 and a half minute mark. Here's Mort Castle's "Party Time" for your listening pleasure.

Over the past few Halloweens, I've hankered for some good horror flicks. However, since having kids, my wife Debbie doesn't have the stomach for realistic horror (serial killers, torture, and so on). We've compromised with supernatural horror, which more often than not is pretty campy. (We're about half way through Stephen King's The Mist right now.*) I'm not suggesting there are only 2 kinds of horror. I'm sure there are many. I think urban legends fall somewhere in between. Usually these have plausible story lines but are told in a more over-the-top sort of way that suggests, at least to the more discerning listeners, they aren't to be taken that seriously. (Have any favourites?)
"Party Time" feels like an urban legend. While the story of a child being locked in the basement is (tragically) fathomable, the tone and diction have that exaggerated quality of a Halloween tale. It's a great story and awesomely twisted.

(Have you seen the most recent Saturday Word Play?)

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Reader's Diary #407- Paul Quarrington: King Leary

The puck is dropped and Quarrington makes an easy steal with the infectious voice of title character King Leary. Full of old timey expressions, the spectators wonder if these are Quarrington creations or if he's done his research. He moves in on the net, he takes an early shot, but he's blocked by Richler. Quarrington's shot needs a little more cantankerous wit to get one past Mordecai's stick.

Not to worry, Quarrington's on it again, this time trying his old Canadiana moves. He does the ginger ale, he does the snow, he even throws in a "Saint-Louis-du-Ha! Ha!" The fans are going wild, he shoots...

And what a save.

Quarrington just can't seem to get it in. Richler passes it off to Possibly Too Preachy who slides it down to Dangers of Alcohol who winds up... and Quarrington's in for the steal. He's not wasting time now, he passes it off to Son Conflicts, Son Conflicts passes it to Moral Dilemmas, Moral Dilemmas to Friendship Complications... it's almost blocked by Lame Fart Joke but stopped by Risky Ghost Story. We're seeing some real offense here now but the puck just seems to be avoiding that net.

Only one minute left. Desperate times call for desperate measures. We're seeing a switch up and Redemption takes the ice for Moral Dilemmas, Understanding is in for Son Conflicts, and here comes Forgiveness for Friendship Complications. Forgiveness takes the puck and passes it back to Risky Ghost Story and there's the wrap-up...he shoots, he scores!

1-0! It's all over, ladies and gentlemen. Holy Cow, what a book!

(King Leary took honours at last year's Canada Reads competition and won the Stephen Leacock Medal for Humour back in one nine eight eight. It is published by Random House and was also reviewed by these fine bloggers: Remi, Steve, Ripley, Pooker and Tara)

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Saturday Word Play- Stephen King Word Search

For better or worse, many of Stephen King's novels, novellas and short stories have been made into movies. Here are some of the more memorable performances. I'll give you the name of movie, you tell me the actor's name found in the wordsearch (you don't need to tell me where!). For extra credit, tell me the role they played.

As always, feel free to do them all at home, but only answer one in the comment section, that way 10 people will have a chance to play.

1. Firestarter
2. It
3. The Running Man
4. The Shining
5. The Dark Half
6. The Tommyknockers
7. Maximum Overdrive
8. Misery
9. Carrie
10. The Green Mile

Friday, October 24, 2008

Reader's Diary #406- Alison Calder: Wolf Tree

I enjoyed Alison Calder's Wolf Tree poems more than I enjoyed Wolf Tree. I liked the poetry, but I wasn't crazy about the arrangement.

Like a lot of non-anthology poetry collections, there isn't a readily identifiable theme running through the book. That's fine. I love potluck. But, imagine if the first eight people showed up with pasta dishes. You'd be expecting a theme, right? So, it's sort of jarring when the ninth person shows up with potato salad and the tenth with curried shrimp kabobs. Wolf Tree is like this.

The first section is "Sooterkin" and there is a definite focus on circus freaks and curiosities. The second section, however, is called "Gravity" and revolves around coping with death. Both sections contain some great poems, but it's hard to find the connection. I question if some shouldn't have been held for a later collection.

In one specific case, however, Calder (or her editor) sneakily uses contrast to her advantage. Hidden amongst the "Sooterkin" poems about Dumbo and the woman who fools people into believing she gives birth to live rabbits, is this poem:

Imagine A Picture

Imagine a picture of your sister or daughter
and stretch it out. Do not stop pulling.
Stretch until the bones jut, until the body
reveals the frame. Stretch until all you see
are bones and eyes. This is a woman
who sends herself to sleep by counting ribs.
Rolls of quarters fit inside her hipbones.
Her elbows are as sharp as the corners of a mirror.
At night she dreams herself a feast.
The first dish is her thigh. The second her belly.
All day she devours herself.

Imagine a picture of your sister or your daughter
and crumple it. Fold until she is doubled,
tripled into herself. Continue until all you see
are the folds of her clothing. This is a woman
who wears many layers. Other people's voices
fit inside her mouth. When asked her name
she says nothing. At night she dreams
a flood and a throatful of water.
At night she dreams a fire and herself
burned away. She writes

I am undead
Mirrors do not show me
and sunlight marks my skin.

Imagine a picture of your sister or daughter
and tear it so many times
that the pieces become invisible.
Give them away to men you meet.
It does not matter whom. This is a woman
who needs men's hands to put her together.
At night she dreams herself naked on a stage.
In the orchestra there are one thousand mirrors.
All day she tries to remember her reflection.
All night she tries to reassemble herself.

--2008 Alison Calder (Used with permission from Coteau Books) *

My first foray into this poem, I was chalking this character up as yet another "freak." Before long I realized how wrong I was, and how, out of the "Sooterkin" context, she wouldn't shouldn't appear that way at all. The more I read it, the more tragic she became. So much so that the other Sooterkins got bathed in the same empathetic light. The decision to place that poem in that section was brilliant.

It made the whole book worthwhile.

(*For an interesting comparison, I found a very slightly different, earlier version of "Imagine A Picture" here.)

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

The Great Wednesday Compare 3- Beverly Cleary VERSUS Stan Lee

The winner of the last week's Great Wednesday Compare (Beverly Cleary Vs. Amy Tan) with a final score of 6-3 was Beverly Cleary.

I'm sorry, I know some of you were hoping for a Amy Tan Vs. Pearl S. Buck showdown this week, but it's just not in the cards. I've had Tan's The Joy Luck Club and The Bonesetter's Daughter sitting on my bookshelf for some time now and, for you Tan fans, I promise I'll get to them soon. Of the two, which would you recommend more?

On the surface, this week's match-up looks pretty bizarre. But, when you consider it, both have played pretty significant roles in many childhoods.

Remember, vote simply by adding your comment below, base it on whatever merit you choose, voting does not end until Tuesday at 11:59 p.m. (Nov. 4th, 2008), and if you want your author to get more votes, feel free to promote them here or on your blog! You might notice that there are two weeks to cast your vote this time around instead of the usual one. That's because next week I'm going to bring you a very special Zombie Edition of the Great Wednesday Compare. Those of you who followed the late Kookiejar's blog might remember what that's all about from last Halloween. But for those of you that don't you'll just have to check in next week to find out.
Who's better?

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Reader's Diary #405- William Shakespeare: Titus Andronicus

I'd seen the Anthony Hopkins version of this a while ago, and there's a particular scene in which Titus's daughter is raped and then has her hands cut off and her tongue cut out. It's gruesome and horrifying, to be sure. I wanted to discuss differences between the book and the movie with my wife, but she can't even bring herself to recall the movie, she found it so traumatizing.

While I remember watching Lavinia's tragic story (perhaps the most tragic Shakespearean character I've ever read), there were almost equal moments of gore in the play, that I don't remember in the movie. How about after Chiron stabs and kills Bassianus?
"Drag hence her husband to some secret hole,
and make his dead trunk pillow to our lust."
Or when Demetrius speaks of Aaron and Tamora's son:
"I'll broach the tadpole on my rapier's point:--
Nurse, give it me, my sword shall soon dispatch it."
And of course, when Saturninus asks Titus to fetch Tamora's sons:
"Why, there they are both, baked in that pie;
Whereof their mother daintily hath fed,
Eating the flesh that she herself hath bred."

(Was Anthony Hopkins typecasted for this part?)

Lost is the play, unfortunately, is the villain. Shakespeare usually excels with the villain. In Titus, there is an attempt at one with Aaron. However, he doesn't particularly stand out from Titus (who kills his own son) and Tamora (who practically commissions the rape of Lavinia, telling her sons that the worse they do to her, the more Tamora will love them). In fact, Aaron also shows a softer side when he gives himself up to save his son (though it results in Aaron being buried up to his chest and starved to death).

Yes, it's a disgusting and disturbing tale. And not surprisingly, not one of Shakespeare's more popular plays. However, I doubt it's, as Wikipedia states, "Shakespeare's bloodiest work." I'm pretty sure the body count is greater in Hamlet. But the rape and mutilations (not to mention the pie), certainly add a more twisted dimension. I don't think Shakespeare glorified violence in any way. A lot of scholars make this out to play about the perils of revenge. I'd go even further and suggest that it sends the message that violence begets violence.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Reader's Diary #404: Robert R. McCammon: Nightcrawlers

Short Story Monday

Last Halloween I read Robert R. McCammon's "Eat Me." Until then I hadn't heard of McCammon, but I was pleasantly surprised by the little cannibalistic zombie tale. So, since Halloween is almost upon us once again, I figured I'd revisit McCammon.

This time it's Nightcrawlers, the story of Vietnam vet whose nightmares drag everyone into the horror. It would be easy to see this as an anti-war message: maybe we wouldn't be so gung-ho to send soldiers off to war if we all felt the consequences.

But, as with "Eat Me," I don't know if McCammon cares to be taken that seriously. Just in case, the narrator and probable hero, is a flag-waving patriot. So if people want to find an anti-war message, they'd best not confuse it with an anti-American one.

Yes, the flag-waving patriot is a stereotype. So is the hippie waitress. So is the cocky trooper. And to top it all off, the story takes place at a diner during a thunderstorm. Cheesy? Yes. Clichéd? Absolutely. But, like my Christmas decorations, I sometimes like cheese. It's seems to be part of the tradition.

I didn't enjoy "Nightcrawlers" as much as "Eat Me" (which was original), but it was pleasant horrific fun, like a good B movie.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Reader's Diary #403- Pierre Berton: The Secret World of Og

Pierre Berton's The Secret World of Og is probably one of my biggest disappointments this year.

When I first discovered that he'd written a juvenile fiction book about a race of underground green people that could only say "Og" I was beyond intrigued. It went straight to the top of my wishlist and a couple Christmases ago, my wife got it for me for Christmas. While I kept putting it off and putting it off, I continued to see heaps of praise for it. Recently, I decided to finally get around to reading it and I covered one chapter per night reading it aloud to my five year old.

I thought it stunk. I found it terribly dated (cowboys and cap guns?) and sometimes questionably inappropriate (a near lynching of the little boy Peter ends with a noose around his neck). Of course, Berton could be given credit for portraying children's imaginations accurately-- in every scenario my friends and I created as kids they ended with one of us "dying" (eyes closed, tongue hanging out).

I found it to be a very tedious read. Often, right in the middle of the action, Berton would get sidetracked with a character's background which seemed far more suited to the style of an adult or young adult novel than the children at which it was supposedly aimed. Take, for instance, when Patsy falls into a river:
Patsy had been the first of the children to learn to swim, just as she was the first in many things that required agility. Most important of all, she had been the first to learn to cross her eyes, a feat which was greatly admired by the others but which sometimes unnerved old gentlemen. They would pat the child on the head and remark..."
Wait, is she still in the river?

Worst of all, background history as in the paragraph above, just seem to make the book overly personal and private. Berton apparently wrote this for his own children, who make up the main characters of the book. I know a lot of authors draw from their own children for inspiration but The Secret World of Og seems to be filled with minute details that only the Berton children would fully appreciate. At times I felt like I was watching a stranger's family slide show. Yawn.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Saturday Word Play- Scrabble Ghost Busters

This week, it's all about the ghosts. I'll give you the author, the piece in which the ghost appears, and the Scrabble point value of each letter in the answer. How many of these can you identify? As always, feel free to do them all at home, but only answer one in the comment section, that way 10 people will have a chance to play.

1. William Shakespeare (Hamlet): 5-1-1-2 4-1-3-1-1-1

2. J. K. Rowling (Chamber of Secrets): 3-1-1-1-1-1-2 3-4-1-1-1-1

3. Henry James (The Turn of The Screw): 3-1-1-1-1 10-1-1-1-1

4. Charles Dickens (A Christmas Carol): 8-1-3-1-1 3-1-1-1-1-4

5. Nikolai Gogol ("The Overcoat"): 1-5-1-5-4

6. Washington Irving ("The Legend of Sleepy Hollow"): 1-4-1 4-1-1-2-1-1-1-1 4-1-1-1-1-3-1-1

7. Toni Morrison (Beloved): 3-1-1-1-4-1-2

8. Joe Hill (Heart-Shaped Box): 3-1-1-2-2-1-3-5 3-3-2-1-1-3-1-1-1

9. Robertson Davies ("The Great Queen Is Amused"): 1-1-1-1-1-1-1 3-1-1-2-1-1

10. Neil Gaiman (The Graveyard Book): 3-1 1-1-2 3-1-1 1-4-1-1-1

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Reader's Diary #402- M.L.R. Smith: Fighting For Ireland

M.L.R. Smith's book Fighting For Ireland is 18 years old. Furthermore, the Provisional Irish Republican Army hasn't been active in recent years, calling an end to its armed campaign in 2005 and possibly disbanded in its entirety just last month. So why am I interested in their military strategy now?

I'm not.

When I first moved to Yellowknife, a lot of the fun was unloading my boxes and boxes of books unto my bookshelf. That's when I noticed that I had not one, but two books about the I.R.A. (Smith's book and Peter Taylor's Loyalists). I honestly have no idea where these came from. Must have been that angry leprechaun that helped us pack. In any case, I thought it was about time to rid my shelf of one of these books.

And it was a hard slog. Have you heard people praise Pierre Berton's ability to personalize history and make it interesting? Smith is no Berton. Throwing out dates and acronyms willy-nilly, this is not I.R.A. For Dummies. Unfortunately. Until now, I hadn't even heard of the PIRA. It was all the IRA as far as I was concerned. I had a lot to learn.

And I did learn a little. In particular, I learned that the Protestant-Catholic animosities had a much more complicated relationship with the IRA than I'd ever fathomed. At times the IRA tried to distance itself from the sectarianism, saying that they were for the freedom of all Irish, Catholic and Protestant. At other times, the IRA seemed to exploit the tensions to its advantage. And at other times, it seemed to be a veritable Catholic militant group.

But usually, I found myself drifting away. To Smith's credit, I wasn't able to drift far. Instead of thinking of Irish issues, I found myself thinking "what if" questions about Canada. What if, for instance, Newfoundland and Labrador separatists were told they could just have the island? Would the separatists go for it? On the one hand, it would be hard to pass up a concession. On the other, what chance would that leave the Labradorians? The island has the larger population and therefore a louder voice. Would they continue to fight for Labrador's independence? The old adage "divided we fall" comes to mind. And what about Quebec? If they were to separate due to demands of French separatists, would the English people residing there show loyalty to Canada or Quebec? It was interesting trying to transpose some of Ireland's issues over Canada's. It is with some relief that despite the number of separatist groups in Canada, there have been few incidents of violence (the FLQ is, of course, one exception).

So, dull as Smith's book was (it takes a special skill to make a car-bomb boring), at least it gave me time to reflect on my own country.

The Soundtrack
1. Sunday Bloody Sunday- U2
2. Shankill Butchers- the Decemberists
3. The Orange and The Green- The Irish Rovers
4. Anarchy in the U.K.- the Sex Pistols
5. The Foggy Dew- The Battering Ram

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

The Great Wednesday Compare 3- Beverly Cleary VERSUS Amy Tan

The winner of the last week's Great Wednesday Compare (Judy Blume Vs. Beverly Cleary) with a final score of 13-2 was Beverly Cleary.

Wow, lots of enthusiastic support for Cleary! I liked Bybee's comment that if Blume were here, she'd vote for Cleary, too. I don't have much of an opinion about Blume. I think I may have read Freckle Juice but if so, I don't remember it much. I guess that answers Kathleen's question from a couple weeks back, "Do boys read Blume?" I also know Then Again, Maybe I Won't also seems aimed at boys, but of course, none have been as popular as Are You There God, It's Me Margaret. That book and Martyn Godfrey's Here She Is, Miss Teeny Wonderful seemed to always be laying around my sister's bedroom when we were growing up.

But, as always, we move on.

Remember, vote simply by adding your comment below, base it on whatever merit you choose, voting does not end until Tuesday at 11:59 p.m. (Oct. 21st, 2008), and if you want your author to get more votes, feel free to promote them here or on your blog!

Who's better?

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

And the winner is...

3M! 3M correctly identified a non-fiction title (The Canadian Encyclopedia of Natural Medicine) and a coming-of-age novel (Anthem of a Reluctant Prophet) from the latest reviews posted in the 3rd update.

For her efforts, 3M will be receiving a copy of both Ambrosia: About a Culture by James Cummins and The Entropy of Aaron Rosclatt by James Sandham.

In the meantime, there was no winner of 13 Ghosts of Halloween, so I'll be sending that to her as well.

Thanks to Clark-Nova Books, Patricia Storms, and to all those that played along last week.

Congrats 3M!

Monday, October 13, 2008

Reader's Diary #401- Hezekiah Butterworth: A Thanksgiving Dinner That Flew Away

Short Story Monday

Yes, it's Thanksgiving Day here in Canada Again. So what's with the goose clip? Well, I'm sorry, but geese are just funnier than turkeys.

Hezekiah Butterworth must have known this even back in the late 1800s when he wrote "A Thanksgiving Dinner That Got Away:"

"There is one sound that I shall always remember. It is 'honk.'"

Yes, I'm immature enough to still find a simple "honk" amusing. Fortunately, Butterworth's story is aimed at younger readers, so the humour was up my alley. It also triggered a few memories. For those of you who might balk at the almost Norman Rockwellian wholesomeness of the opening, it's not pure sentiment, it's realistic for some of us. My father raised all sorts of fowl when I was a boy, including geese, the largest and most intimidating of the lot. I quickly learned that an aluminum baseball bat did nothing to frighten them away (though it probably didn't help that my aim was lousy and I could never make contact). Eventually, I knew to check if the coast was clear anytime I wished to simply cross the backyard. Yes, I too remember "honk." I also remember "hiss." And a wingspan so large you'd swear rabid angels were about to strike you down.

Unfortunately Butterworth didn't seem able to milk more comedy out of the bird and took the story in a forced, slightly supernatural direction which didn't seem to mesh well with the opening tone. Still, it's a charming little story taken from The Children's Book of Thanksgiving Stories found in its entirety at the Project Gutenburg.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Saturday Word Play- Edgar Allen Poe: Lost In Translation

This week's Saturday Word Play features Poe, sort of. Using Yahoo's Babelfish translator, I've taken some beginnings from Edgar Allen Poe's most recognized works (short stories and poems) and translated them from English into another language... and back into English. If anything, it should give you an appreciation to what goes into real translation.

How many of these can you identify? As always, feel free to do them all at home, but only answer one in the comment section, that way 10 people will have a chance to play.

1. German:
Once after a midnight-hopeless, while I considered, weakly and you, over many a wunderliches and curious volume forgotten excessive quantity, fatigue while I nodded, nearly Nickerchen making, suddenly came knocking, starting from someone, knocking at my space door there knock easy. " ' Tis any visitor, " I murmured, " at my space door - only these and at nothing knock more."

2. Italian:
The thousand lesions of Lucky person that I had supported since the best of could; but when it has been taken risks sull' insult, I have made ballot in the vendetta. That it thus knows well the nature of my spirit, you will not suppose, however, that gives l' expression to a threat.

3. Korean:
The total middle of the dull thing, the cloud is low from heaven and outrageously before hanging, there is to an autumn of year and, the silent work the nation only, the area where is desolate, end made burn, alone was passing; And finally the shade of evening seeks, pulls to place the prospective undergarment of the house which guide is melancholy.

4. Portuguese:
He was many and very one year it has, In a kingdom for the sea, That a maiden lived who there you can know For the name of...

6. Spanish:
In Paris, immediately after the darkness a behind schedule impetuous one in the autumn of 18 -, enjoyed the double luxury of the meditation and a foam of sea, in company with my friend

7. Japanese:
Truth! --Nervousness --Very, nervousness I Am fearful very; But when I am the lunatic, why you say? The sickness shaved my feeling --It is not destroyed --Those which do not become sluggish.

8. Russian: devastated the country by length. None of pestilence was always so fatal, or so terrible. The blood it was its embodiment and its packing-redness and the horror of the blood.

9. Greek:
Lo! 'tis one night gala In the alone last years! A crowd of angels, bedight in the veils, and drowned cried,

10. Dutch:
For wildest, it most of simple tale I about which is to pen, expected I nor nor request still belief. Crazily indeed I, in a case must expect where my actual meanings reject their own proof material.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

The Great Wednesday Compare: Judy Blume VERSUS Beverly Cleary

The winner of the last week's Great Wednesday Compare (H. P. Lovecraft Vs. Judy Blume) with a final score of 8-5 was Judy Blume.

I can't say I'm much of a Lovecraft fan. Though to be fair, I've only read a short story ("The Call of Cthulhu") and a novella (The Shadow Over Innsmouth). Both feature some bizarre fishlike creatures. While I respect the imagination, I wasn't exactly terrified of his scaly monsters. That his work was often categorized as "weird fiction" is no surprise.

Odd that it's now October, and it's the first Wednesday Compare in quite a while not to feature a horror writer. I wonder if it'll come down to Margaret versus Ramona.

Remember, vote simply by adding your comment below, base it on whatever merit you choose, voting does not end until Tuesday at 11:59 p.m. (Oct. 14th, 2008), and if you want your author to get more votes, feel free to promote them here or on your blog!

Who's better?

Monday, October 06, 2008

Reader's Diary #400- Cory Doctorow: The Things That Make Me Weak and Strange Get Engineered Away

Short Story Monday

Cory Doctorow (no, it's not Drew Carey, even if Joy Ito's photo might suggest otherwise), is a bit of a techno-philosopher. Judging from his blog, the ethics and morality of Internet piracy and surveillance seem to be two favourite topics. It's the latter of which "The Things That Make Me Weak and Strange Get Engineered Away" seems preoccupied.

I don't read a lot of sci-fi, but when I do, I enjoy the level of trust I have to employ. That these worlds, beings, technologies and cultures have coalesced in the author's mind is a given, and for some reason, these aspects have never been as problematic for me with sci-fi like as they have been from time to time with other genres. Perhaps I approach such books more open-minded than usual.

In this short story, that familiar trusting feeling came back. As it begins, Doctorow is heavy on the computer jargon (logfiles, checksum, bitstream) of which I have only a vague awareness, and he mixes it with other terminology (Reflective Analytics, Securitat) of which I have even less knowledge. What's a Doctorow creation and what's not was hard to say (though if the stereotypes are accurate, I'd say that most of his readers wouldn't have any problems separating fact from fiction). I didn't care though. A lot of sci-fi is like "Jabberwocky" to me.

From what I could understand, it's the story of Lawrence who belongs to an order of monks (though later he clarifies that the religious terminology is only a metaphor-- and just as I was drawing comparisons to the Matrix) that uses biofeedback to get in touch with themselves. Their technology and skills have advanced so greatly that they can also sense anomalies in the world around them, like when someone acts contrary to the norm. Obviously this skill would be of great use to a spy organization, say a government that wishes to keep a tighter control on its people by tracking suspicious behaviour. Lawrence's monastery seems to be contracted out for such work. At least this is my understanding of the premise.

I at least understood enough to know that the familiar "Big Brother" scenario is a theme. But, while I don't think Orwell should have the final say on that topic (with the Internet, Homeland Security, etc I think there's a whole lot more to say), this story's addition to the discourse seems to be an overly simplistic message of a self-fulfilling prophecy: if the government treats the public like criminals (by spying on them), they will act like criminals.

“Everyone was treating me like a criminal—from the minute I stepped out of the Order, you all treated me like a criminal. That made me act like one—everyone has to act like a criminal here. That’s the hypocrisy of the world, that honest people end up acting like crooks because the world treats them like crooks.”

Add to this the unclear ending, and I didn't really enjoy the story. It was an interesting world, without an interesting message.

Saturday, October 04, 2008

Saturday Word Play: Vampire Crossword

This week's edition of Saturday Word Play is inspired by Carls's R.I.P. Challenge which officially began on October 1st and runs to Halloween. Each Saturday for the month of October, I'll be trying to make Saturday Word Play Halloween or horror themed.

With this crossword puzzle, I'll give you the name of a vampire, you give me the author. As always, feel free to do them all at home, but only answer one in the comment section, that way 10 people will have a chance to play. Use the answers others have given to help:
2. Dracula
3. Barlow
5. Bunnicula
6. Count Saint-Germain
8. Carmilla
9. Lestat

1. Jody
2. Count Nightwing
4. Lilith
7. Edward Cullen

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

The Great Wednesday Compare 3- H. P. Lovecraft VERSUS Judy Blume

The winner of the last week's Great Wednesday Compare (Clive Barker Vs. H. P. Lovecraft) with a final score of 7-4 was H. P. Lovecraft.

Of all the people to lose to, I suspect Barker would have been content with Lovecraft. Quoted as saying that Lovecraft's fiction "is one of the cornerstones of modern horror" it's not hard to see the influence in some of Barker's work (the squid-like "Shu" in Everville could have been miniature versions of Cthulhu). But, for now, history reveres Lovecraft and Barker hasn't seemed to have attained such status as of yet, at least not among my blog readers.

Going in a slightly different direction this week...

Remember, vote simply by adding your comment below, base it on whatever merit you choose, voting does not end until Tuesday at 11:59 p.m. (Oct. 7th, 2008), and if you want your author to get more votes, feel free to promote them here or on your blog!

Who's better?

The 2nd Canadian Book Challenge- 3rd Update

Three months in and we're already up to 297 books!

Congrats to Historia, Kathleen, and August for already reaching 13. That's even before we started the first edition of the challenge (the 1st started October 4th)! And to all those new folks that joined, or to those that have yet to start, last year's success shows that's it's far from too late...

Here are the standings so far (* indicates a new review).

Nunavummiut (13 Books)

- Cockroach by Rawi Hage*
- Rust and Bone by Craig Davidson*
- Once by Rebecca Rosenblum*
- Adult Entertainment by John Metcalf*
- Flight Paths and the Emperor by Steven Heighton*
- Dancing Nightly in the Tavern by Mark Antony Jarman*
- Red Plaid Shirt by Diane Schoemperlen
- The Girls Who Saw Everything by Sean Dixon
- Degrees of Nakedness by Lisa Moore
- The Tracey Fragments by Maureen Medved
- Exotic Dancers by Gerald Lynch
- Stunt by Claudia Dey
- A Week of This by Nathan Whitlock

- Paddle To The Arctic by Don Starkell*
- When We Were Young editted by Stuart McLean*
- The Nine Lives of Charlotte Taylor by Sally Armstrong*
- I Married The Klondike by Laura Beatrice Berton
- After by Francis Chalifour
- Going Inside by Alan Kesselheim
- Laughing on the Outside: The Life of John Candy by Martin Knelman
- Rilla of Ingleside by Lucy Maud Montgomery
- Anne of Ingleside by Lucy Maud Montgomery
- Anne's House of Dreams by Lucy Maud Montgomery
- Anne of The Island by Lucy Maud Montgomery
- The Book of Negroes by Lawrence Hill
- Unknown Shore by Robert Ruby

- Slow Lightning by Mark Frutkin*
- 13 by Mary-Lou Zeitoun*
- Book of Longing by Leonard Cohen*
- Run of the Town by Terrence Rundle West
- Volkswagen Blues by Jacques Poulin
- Natasha and Other Stories by David Bezmozgis
- An Acre In Time by Phil Jenkins
- Kiss The Sunset Pig by Laurie Gough
- Psyche's Children by Catherine Joyce
- The Lidek Revolution by James Stark
- Pure Springs by Brian Doyle
- Speak Ill of the Dead by Mary Jane Maffini
- Without Vodka by Aleksander Topolski

Newfoundlanders and Labradorians
(12 Books)

Albertans (11 Books)

Saskatchewanies (10 Books)

- The Sandcastle Contest by Robert Munsch and illustrated by Michael Martchenko*
- Class Clown by Robert Munsch and illustrated by Michael Martchenko*
- Just One Goal by Robert Munsch and illustrated by Michael Martchenko*
- More Pies! by Robert Munsch and illustrated by Michael Martchenko*
- No Clean Clothes! by Robert Munsch and illustrated by Michael Martchenko
- Boo! by Robert Munsch and illustrated by Michael Martchenko
- Smelly Socks by Robert Munsch and illustrated by Michael Martchenko
- Get Out of Bed! by Robert Munsch and illustrated by Alan and Lea Daniel
- We Share Everything by Robert Munsch and illustrated by Michael Martchenko
- Look At Me! by Robert Munsch and illustrated by Michael Martchenko

- Too Close To The Falls by Catherine Gildiner*
- The Underpainter by Jane Urquhart*
- The Rules of Engagement by Catherine Bush*
- Happenstanceby Carol Shields*
- The Book of Negroes by Lawrence Hill
- lullabies for little criminals by Heather O'Neill
- Late Nights On Air by Elizabeth Hay
- A History of Forgetting by Caroline Adderson
- JPod by Douglas Coupland
- The End of East by Jen Sookfong Lee

Yukoners (9 Books)

- Night Runner by Max Turner*
- Getting the Girl by Susan Juby*
- Jolted by Arthur Slade*
- Starclimber by Kenneth Oppel
- Gargoyle by Andrew Davidson
- The Horseman's Grave by Jacqueline Baker
- Newton and the Time Machine by Michael McGowan
- The Shooting of Dan McGrew by Robert W. Service and illustrated by Ted Harrison
- The Seance by Iain Lawrence

- Rockbound by Frank Parker Day*
- Roger Sudden by Thomas Raddall*
- The Mountain and the Valley by Ernest Buckler*
- The Film Club by David Gilmour
- Nikolski by Nicolas Dickner
- What Happened later by Ray Robertson
- King Leary by Paul Quarrington
- The Game by Ken Dryden
- Midnight Hockey by Bill Gaston

- Sisters of Grass by Theresa Kishkan*
- The Outlander by Gil Adamson*
- A Certain Mr. Takahashi by Ann Ireland*
- Innercity Girl Like Me by Sabrina Bernardo
- The Flying Troutmans by Miriam Toews
- Beautiful Girl Thumb by Melissa Steele
- An Audience of Chairs by Joan Clark
- Where The Pavement Ends by Marie Wadden
- Naomi's Road by Joy Kogowa and illustrated by Matt Gould

Paul P
- Sweetness in the Belly by Camilla Gibb
- The Wars by Timothy Findley
- Famous Last Words by Timothy Findley
- As For Me And My House by Sinclair Ross
- Beautiful Losers by Leonard Cohen
- Pilgrim by Timothy Findley
- The Stone Angel by Margaret Laurence
- Effigy by Alissa York
- Edible Woman by Margaret Atwood

Prince Edward Islanders (8 Books)

- Ramasseur by Richard deMuelles*
- Passion Fruit Tea by Elenore Schonmaier
- Turtle Valley by Gail Anderson-Dargatz
- a week of this: a novel in seven days by Nathan Whitlock
- The Birth House by Ami McKay
- Baltimores Mansion by Wayne Johnston
- Mercy Among The Children by David Adams Richards
- The Skating Pond by Deborah Joy Corey

British Columbians (7 Books)

- The Cruelest Month by Louise Penny*
- Runaway by Alice Munro*
- Moral Disorder by Margaret Atwood*
- Gallows View by Peter Robinson*
- The Penelopiad by Margaret Atwood
- Charley's Web by Joy Fielding
- Anne of Avonlea by Lucy Maud Montgomery

- The Canadian Encyclopedia of Natural Medicine by Sherry Torkos*
- Down The Coal Town Road by Sheldon Currie*
- The Story So Far... by Sheldon Currie*
- Lauchie, Liza & Rory by Sheldon Currie*
- I've Got A Home In Glory Land by Karolyn Smardz Frost*
- The War On Women by Brian Vallee
- Truth and Rumors: The Truth Behind TV's Most Famous Myths by Bill Brious

- Spook Country by William Gibson*
- Pear Tree Pomes by Roy Kiyooka*
- The Witness Ghost by Tim Bowling
- Forage by Rita Wong
- Slash by Jeannette Armstrong
- Ontological Necessities by Priscilla Uppal
- Time Was Soft There by Jeremy Mercer

Northwest Territorians (6 Books)

- The Flying Troutmans by Miriam Toews*
- Entitlement by Jonathan Bennett*
- Cockroach by Rawi Hage*
- Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere by John McFetridge
- The Killing Circle by Andrew Pyper
- The Order of Good Cheer by Bill Gaston

- At A Loss For Words by Diane Schoemperlen*
- Mister Sandman by Barbara Gowdy*
- Twice Born by Pauline Gedge*
- Quintet by Douglas Arthur Brown*
- Coventry by Helen Humphreys*
- Remembrance of Summers by J. M. Kearns*

- Exit Lines by Joan Barfoot*
- The Stone Angel by Margaret Laurence
- The Stone Diaries by Carol Shields
- Before Green Gables by Budge Wilson
- Crow Lake by Mary Lawson
- The Birth House by Ami McKay

- Hero of Lesser Causes by Julie Johnston
- Lisa by Carol Matas
- Ticket to Curlew by Celia Barker Lottridge
- Bud, Not Buddy by Christopher Paul Curtis
- Thumb In The Box by Ken Roberts
- Dippers by Barbara Nichol and illustrated by Barry Moser

Manitobans (5 Books)

- Extraordinary Canadians: Lord Beaverbrook by David Adams Richards*
-The Flying Troutmans by Miriam Toews*
-Don't Lets Go The Dogs Tonight by Alexandra Fuller
-Eleanor Rigby by Douglas Coupland
-Traveling Music by Neil Peart

Traveler One
- The Book of Negroes by Lawrence Hill*
- Random Passage by Bernice Morgan
- Kiss The Joy As It Flies by Sheree Fitch
- Late Nights On Air by Elizabeth Hay
- The Mountain and The Valley by Ernest Buckler

- Burden of Desire by Robert MacNeil*
- Barrington Street Blues by Anne Emery*
- Black Ice by Linda Hall
- Blood Lies by Daniel Kalla
- Bone To Ashes by Kathy Reichs

- Murmel, Murmel, Murmel by Robert Munsch and illustrated by Michael Martchenko*
- Nikolski by Nicolas Dickner*
- The Rez Sisters by Tomson Highway
- Yellowknife by Steve Zipp
- Consolation by Michael Redhill

- Yellowknife by Steve Zipp*
- Bones to Ashes by Kathy Reichs
- Consumption by Kevin Patterson
- The Cellist of Sarajevo by Steven Galloway
- No Great Mischief by Alistair MacLeod

- A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier by Ishmael Beah
- Conceit by Mary Novik
- Forage by Rita Wong
- Porcupine by Meg Tilly
- The Alchemist's Dream by John Wilson

- Yellowknife by Steve Zipp
- The Wars by Timothy Findley
- Great Canadian Short Stories edited by Alec Lucas
- The Fire Dwellers by Margaret Laurence
- The Lives of Girls and Women by Alice Munro

New Brunswickers (4 Books)

- Anthem of a Reluctant Prophet by Joanne Proulx*
- The Best Laid Plans by Terry Fallis
- At A Loss For Words by Diane Schoemperlin
- The End of East by Jen Sookfong Lee

- Blasted by Kate Story*
- The Brutal Heart by Gail Bowen*
- Prarie Bridesmaid by Daria Salamon
- Saltsea by David Helwig

- Inside Out Girl by Tish Cohen*
- The Killing Circle by Andrew Pyper
- The Line Painter by Claire Cameron
- Indigenous Beasts by Nathan Sellyn

- Beneath The Naked Sun by Connie Fife*
- A Theft by Saul Bellow*
- Arctic Migrants/ Arctic Villagers by David Damas
- White Eskimo by Harold Horwood

Nathan Smith
- Belle Moral by Ann-Marie MacDonald*
- The Summoning by Kelley Armstrong*
- A Secret Between Us by Daniel Poliquin
-The Wars by Timothy Findley

- Gargoyle by Andrew Davidson
- Surfacing by Margaret Atwood
- As For Me and My House by Sinclair Ross
- A Bird In The House by Margaret Laurence

- The Killing Circle by Andrew Pyper
- Fast Forward and Other Stories by Delia de Santis
- The Gum Thief by Douglas Coupland
- Selected Poems (1972) by Al Purdy

- Divisadero by Michael Ondaatje
- Gargoyle by Andrew Davidson
- Look for Me by Edeet Ravel
- Horseman's Grave by Jacqueline Baker

- Clauda by Britt Holmstrom
- The Only Snow in Havanna by Elizabeth Hay
- The Bone Cage by Angie Abdou
- Wolf Tree by Alison Calder

- Kit's Law by Donna Morrissey
- Latitudes of Melt by Joan Clark
- A Student of Weather by Elizabeth Hay
- The Calling by Inger Ash Wolfe

Nova Scotians (3 Books)

Tara (find reviews in her sidebar)
- Lullabies For Little Criminals by Heather O'Neill*
- Living Room by Allan Weiss*
- Elizabeth and After by Matt Cohen*

- Jacob Two-Two Meets The Hooded Fang by Mordecai Richler*
- Stolen by Kelley Armstrong
- Bitten by Kelley Armstrong

- Eleanor Rigby by Douglas Coupland*
- The Best of Robert Service by Robert Service
- Anne of Green Gables by Lucy Maud Montgomery

Mary Ellen
- The Impact of a Single Event by R. L. Prendergast*
- The Whirlpool by Jane Urquhart
- Margarita Nights by Phyliss Smallman

- Gargoyle by Andrew Davidson*
- Yellowknife by Steve Zipp*
- Loyalists and Layabouts by Stephen Kimber

- A Complicated Kindness by Miriam Toews*
- Rollbackby Robert J. Sawyer*
- The Birth House by Ami McKay

- Itsuka by Joy Kogowa*
- Since Daisy Creek by W. O. Mitchell
- Prospero's Daughter by Constance Beresford-Howe

- Anne of The Island by Lucy Maud Montgomery
- Unless by Carol Shields
- Fifth Business by Robertson Davies

Sam Lamb
- A Complicated Kindness by Miriam Toews
- The Given by Daphne Marlatt
- A Map of Glass by Jane Urquhart

- Gargoyle by Andrew Davidson
- A Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood
- Icefields by Thomas Wharton

- Nova Scotia by Tanya Lloyd Kyi
- Tottering in My Garden by Midge Ellis Keeble
- The Pioneers of Inverness Township by Gwen Rawlings

Quebecois (2 Books)

- Map of Glass by Jane Urquhart*
- Caedman's Song by Peter Robinson*

- Sailor Girl by Sheree-Lee Olson*
- What We All Long For by Dionne Brand*

- Goodnight Desdemona (Good Morning Juliet) by Ann-Marie MacDonald*
- Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood*

- The Actual by Saul Bellow*
- The Song of Kahunsha by Anosh Irani*

- Barometer Rising by Hugh MacLennan*
- Niagara, A History of The Falls by Pierre Berton

- The End of the Alphabet by CS Richardson
- Open Secrets by Alice Munro*

- The Birth House by Ami McKay
- The Stone Carvers by Jane Urquhart

- My One Hundred Adventures by Polly Horvath
- All-Season Edie by Annabel Lyon

- The Penelopiad by Margaret Atwood
- Anne of Green Gables by Lucy Maud Montgomery

- Sweetness in the Belly by Camilla Gibb
- The Droughtlanders by Carrie Mac

- Claudia by Britt Holmstrom
- The Bone Cage by Angie Abdou

- The Gargoyle by Andrew Davidson
- Song of the Paddle by Bill Mason

- Life of Pi by Yann Martel
- The Cure For Death by Lightning

- Memories Are Murder by Lou Allin
- Pandemic by Daniel Kalla

- Shelf Monkey by Corey Redekop
- The Time In Between by David Bergen

- Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood
- The Game by Teresa Toten

- Runaway by Alice Munro
- Away by Jane Urquhart

Ontarians (1 Book)

- Late Nights On Air by Elizabeth Hay*

- Honour Among Men by Barbara Fradkin*

- Water For Elephants by Sara Gruen

- How To Be a Canadian by Will Ferguson and Ian Ferguson

- Alice, I Think by Susan Juby

- An Imperfect Offering by James Orbinsky

Literary Mom
- Late Nights On Air by Elizabeth Hay

- Barney's Version by Mordecai Richler

- Crow Lake by Mary Lawson

Mrs. Peachtree
- Stella Fairy of the Forest by Marie-Louise Gay

(If these standings are not correct, please let me know. I suspect I've made many blunders with this one. I've been extremely busy lately and haven't had as much time to dedicate. My apologies!)

The first of this month's prizes is inspired by a piece of sad news I first heard via Historia. According to Robert Munsch's website, dated August 28th, 2008, he has suffered a stroke that "affects [his] ability to construct sentences." Apparently he is recovering, but it will take a long time. So, since one of this month's donated prizes is a children's picture book, I'm asking that you make a donation to the Heart and Stroke Foundation in honour of Robert Munsch. You don't need to tell me how much but if you do donate just let me know in the comment section and I'll enter your name in for a draw for 13 Ghosts of Halloween by Robin Muller and illustrated by Patricia Storms. Thanks to Patricia for donating and autographing this book. I will be drawing a winner on October 7th to get the book out before Halloween.

The next two prizes come from a relatively new publisher on the scene, Clark-Nova Books. According to their website, their raison d'etre is to "showcase the best young literary talent that Canada has to offer." Most interesting, under their submission guidelines, their authors must be "under thirty years old upon publication." (Looks like I need to find a new publisher for my memoirs!) Two of their young authors are James Cummins and James Sandham, the authors behind the next two prizes:

In Ambrosia: About A Culture, Cummins investigates electronica and how it "brought an entire generation together in peace and revolutionized the entertainment business, all without ever waking up before noon."

Sandham's The Entropy of Aaron Rosclatt is a novel about "the confrontation of youth's crisp idealism with reality".

To win these two books, look at the new reviews posted above (marked by *). Tell me one non-fiction book and one that you'd consider a coming-of-age story. Email your answers to jmutford (AT) hotmail (DOT) com. I'll be drawing a random winner on October 14.

There's also some prizes being offered up over at Kathleen's place.

Last month's winners of Cheryl Kaye Tardif's Whale Song, Divine Intervention and The River were Wanda, Lara and Gypsysmom respectively. Congratulations!

Until next month, have fun celebrating, promoting and exploring Canadian Books.